Grant Gerlock

Reporter

Grant Gerlock started covering Des Moines and central Iowa for IPR in March 2019. Before that he covered food, agriculture and rural life for Harvest Public Media at NET in Lincoln, Nebraska, where his work was recognized with a Regional Murrow Award and awards from the Midwest Broadcast Journalists Association.

Grant has a master’s degree in mass communication from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, and graduated from Buena Vista University in Storm Lake, Iowa. He grew up on a farm outside of Cumberland in southwest Iowa where he listened to public radio in the tractor.

Grant’s favorite public radio program is Fresh Air.

Ways to Connect

Megan Klindt and Donald Hendricks died when an engine fire spread throughout this bus in rural western Iowa.
Pottawattamie County Sheriff's Office

After reviewing the case of a school bus fire in western Iowa, a federal safety board is calling for changes to fire safety standards that date back to 1971. The National Transportation Safety Board said buses are overdue for an upgrade to protect students from fires, but also said school districts should follow stricter rules to ensure drivers are healthy enough to take action when there is an emergency.

Former Iowa governor and current ambassador to China, Terry Branstad, gives testimony at the Polk County Courthouse in Des Moines.
Des Moines Register pool photo

Former Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad testified Friday that he did not discriminate against Christopher Godfrey when he asked him to resign as Iowa’s Workers’ Compensation Commissioner before his six-year term was up.

Godfrey is suing Branstad, claiming he was asked to leave the position in 2011 because he is gay and that, after he declined, Branstad retaliated by slashing his salary.

Erolld Belegu, an advisor to Kosovo's prime minister, explains the country's incentives for Iowa businesses.
Grant Gerlock / IPR

The Republic of Kosovo is making a pitch for Iowa companies to invest in the young country’s economy. Representatives from Iowa’s sister-state in southeastern Europe were in Norwalk Wednesday to promote a program which includes 1,200 acres of land that will be parceled out to companies willing to build new operations in the country.

The Polk County Courthouse in Des Moines.
Bill Badzo / Flickr

A 10 person jury had its first opportunity Wednesday to hear arguments in a case where former Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad is accused of pressuring a department-head to resign because he is gay. Former Iowa Workers’ Compensation Commissioner, Chris Godfrey, is suing the state, Branstad and two former aides because he says when he refused to step down his salary was cut in retaliation.

Clay Masters / IPR file

Dozens of communities released untreated water into rivers and streams over the past week after heavy rain fell across the state. According to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, more than 70 cases of flood water bypassing wastewater treatment centers have been reported since Thursday and more are expected from this week’s deluge.

Cyclists ride across the High Trestle Trail bridge near Madrid, Iowa.
Phil Roeder / Flickr

A plan to create a nationwide trail network for hiking and cycling includes a winding route through Iowa, from Davenport to Council Bluffs. The Great American Rail Trail was mapped out by the non-profit Rail Trail Conservancy and builds off of the state’s existing trail network.

New York City mayor Bill de Blasio, speaks to protestors outside a McDonald's in Des Moines. The Democratic presidential candidate said he supports making $15-per-hour the national minimum wage.
Grant Gerlock / IPR

Workers and union supporters were joined by New York City mayor and Democratic presidential candidate Bill de Blasio at a protest in front of a Des Moines McDonald's.

Flickr/OakleyOriginals

The National Weather Service has confirmed two tornadoes touched down in western Iowa Wednesday morning near the towns of Adair and Anita.

Former Des Moines city councilwoman, Christine Hensley, has been helping organize opposition to the construction of a new federal courthouse on a former YMCA site.
Grant Gerlock / IPR

Some Des Moines business leaders and city council members want the federal government to reconsider plans for a new courthouse on a coveted piece of real estate in downtown Des Moines. The agency in charge of the $137 million project could decide how to move forward as soon as Wednesday.

John Pemble/IPR file photo

The Iowa Supreme Court has upheld a 2017 law limiting bargaining rights for many state employees. In 4-3 rulings in two separate cases, the court denied arguments made by unions representing teachers and other public workers that the law violates the equal protection clause of the Iowa Constitution because it gives more bargaining rights to public safety workers.

Steve Bullock unsuccessfully defended the state's campaign finance law at the U.S. Supreme Court as the state's attorney general. But as governor, he signed one of the nation's strongest campaign transparency laws.
Grant Gerlock / IPR

In his first stop in Iowa to campaign for the Democratic nomination for president, two-term Montana governor Steve Bullock highlighted bipartisan achievements that he said set him up to connect with swing-state voters.

Gov. Kim Reynolds updates the Flood Recovery Advisory Board on disaster relief in southwest and southeast Iowa.
Grant Gerlock / IPR

FEMA has approved $12 million in payments to people recovering from Iowa floods, and 1,829 registrations for help have been filed with the agency. Those are the latest numbers reported by Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management to the state Flood Recovery Advisory Board.

John Pemble / IPR file photo

Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley is hopeful about the direction of trade negotiations between the U.S. and China, even after President Trump announced plans to increase tariffs on Chinese imports. Iowa's senior senator said it’s a good sign that negotiators from the two countries are still planning to meet in Washington this week to discuss a potential deal.

Collin Richards sits with his attorneys waiting to hear whether his trial would be moved out of Story County.
Lyn Keren / Ames Tribune

The man charged with the murder of an Iowa State University golfer will go on trial in September, but not in Story County where the crime occurred. Instead, the trial will be three hours away in Decorah.

Ankeny Centennial junior Benton Renaud speaks to a group of students at the U.S. Youth Climate Strike in Des Moines.
Grant Gerlock / IPR

A few dozen Des Moines area students took time out of school Friday to rally for political action on climate change. The Youth Climate Strike outside the Iowa Capitol was part of a day of demonstrations across the country.

Hospital leaders join Gov. Kim Reynolds in a groundbreaking for Clive Behavioral Health.
Natalie Krebs / IPR

Construction starts this month on a new behavioral health hospital going up in a Des Moines suburb. Clive Behavioral Health will be part of the MercyOne system. It will have 100 beds to provide much needed inpatient care as well as outpatient treatment and counseling, crisis response and telehealth services.

Governor Kim Reynolds speaks before signing a bill establishing a statewide children's mental health system.
Grant Gerlock / IPR

Gov. Kim Reynolds has signed a law (HF690) laying the groundwork for the state’s first comprehensive mental health system for children. It initially requires the state’s mental health regions to determine how to fix gaps in existing programs, although they won’t receive extra money this year to make changes.

Flooding on Iowa roads.
File photo by Dan Patterson / Flickr

After a weekend of heavy rain, more showers and storms were moving across southeastern Iowa Tuesday.

Runoff from the storms theatens to push the swollen Mississippi River near record flood levels. Floodwaters on the river are expected to crest this week in Iowa. In the Quad Cities, the river will come near the peak of 22.6 feet reached in 1993.

“The current forecast at Rock Island Lock and Dam No. 15 is currently 22.2 feet, coming up just a little bit short but not by much,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Mike McClure.

Hornick resident Dale Ronfeldt's garage in water in March 2019. A reporter joked with him that he had "lakefront property" and Ronfeldt joked, "you want to buy some?"
Katie Peikes / IPR file

As Iowans apply for federal assistance to help reclaim their flooded homes and businesses, FEMA is hiring temporary workers to help sort through their applications. The disaster agency plans to hire around 60 people to process paperwork and inspect damaged property, among other jobs.

Clay Masters / IPR file

Iowa is spending a fraction of what should be budgeted toward improving water quality, according to an analysis by the nonprofit Iowa Policy Project. The group argues state lawmakers should raise taxes in order to put more money toward solutions, but that doesn’t appear to be under consideration just yet.

Amy Mayer / IPR file

The latest version of Iowa’s ag gag law is headed to court, just like its predecessor. The ACLU of Iowa and other groups are suing the state, arguing that the law violates the free speech of journalists and animal rights advocates by making it a crime to go undercover on the farm.

Under the new law, an individual who lies in order to gain access to a farm or agricultural facility with the intention of physically or economically harming the business can be charged with trespassing.

Katie Peikes / IPR file

FEMA wants to hear from Iowans who were forced to move out of flooded homes to find out if they plan to apply for federal aid. The agency offers financial assistance to renters and grants to homeowners to make their properties safe to live in again. Low interest loans are also available from the Small Business Association.

Grant Gerlock/IPR

Many Democratic presidential candidates have offered their reaction to Thursday’s release with redactions of the Mueller report investigating Russian involvement in the 2016 election. 

Campaigning in Des Moines, Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota said she feels the special counsel should testify before Congress.

“The most important thing is that Bob Mueller come before Congress so that we can get to the bottom of why there’s this difference between his interpretation of the law and the Attorney General of the United States,” Klobuchar said.

Grant Gerlock / IPR

Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg said at a Des Moines rally Tuesday night that his party needs to spend more time talking about issues where Republicans have traditionally controlled the message.

President Trump speaks as he visits a new section of the border wall with Mexico in Calexico, California, Friday April 5, 2019.
Jacquelyn Martin / AP

On a recent visit to the southern border in California, President Trump recently said there is no room in the U.S. for more migrants. But many employers in Iowa say that statement doesn’t fit their reality. Instead, they are hoping immigration can provide workers to rebuild a shrinking labor force.

In Iowa, more people are retiring than joining the job market. The state is tied with New Hampshire, Vermont and North Dakota for the lowest unemployment rate in the country at 2.4 percent. For some businesses, finding enough workers is their greatest challenge.

Grant Gerlock / IPR file

The Catholic Diocese of Des Moines is the latest to identify priests accused of sexual abuse as the church attempts to fully account for reports of abuse by clergy. Bishop Richard Pates Thursday named nine priests implicated in 44 reports of abuse substantiated by the diocese.

The list includes two priests who were not previously publicized: Paul Connelly and Dennis Mangan.

Mike Gronstal testifies against new rules for employee misconduct at a subcommittee hearing.
John Pemble / IPR

Updated Friday, April 5, 2019:

This bill was advanced by the House Commerce Committe, which means it survived the funnel deadline and could come up for debate on the House floor.

Original post from Tuesday, April 2, 2019:

An Iowa Senate bill that specifies cases where workers should be denied unemployment benefits is now advancing in the House, although opponents question whether the changes are necessary.

Currently the Iowa Department of Workforce Development (IWD) decides whether to disqualify a worker from unemployment based on rules it has developed. The bill (SF 561) would codify those rules but also spells out additional forms of misconduct that would disqualify someone from receiving benefits including drinking on the job, stealing or dishonesty.

Iowa Capitol
John Pemble / IPR file

A House subcommittee has advanced a bill (SF 523) that would increase the criminal penalty for intentionally or accidentally causing the death of an “unborn person.” It was the first opportunity for supporters and opponents of the proposal to weigh in on controversial language defining an unborn person as starting at conception.

Under the measure, some people convicted of killing an unborn person could receive a life sentence. Supporters said it is an appropriate punishment.  

The U.S. Attorney's office worked with the FBI and police departments in central Iowa to investigate the C-Block gang.
Grant Gerlock / IPR

The alleged leaders of a Des Moines area street gang are in custody after a months-long investigation by the FBI and local police agencies. Investigators say members of the gang known as C-Block repeatedly bought cocaine from a broker in Chicago to distribute in Iowa.

Thirteen of the 15 people facing charges have been arrested so far. That includes the accused leaders of the group: Daeron Merrett, Marshaun Merrett and Barry Adair, Jr.

Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement member Brenda Brink of Huxley speaks in front of the Capitol at Wednesday's lawsuit announcement.
Grant Gerlock / IPR

State agencies should be required to take greater steps to improve water quality in the Raccoon River according to a new lawsuit filed Wednesday by Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement and Food and Water Watch.

The river provides drinking water for much of the Des Moines area, but it often carries excessive levels of nutrients from the farm fields that drain into it.

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